We all drink beer, we all want to give back. How fortuitous, then, that there are craft breweries across the United States that help make both of those actions possible at the same time. With the good-will vibes of the holiday season behind us and your new year’s resolutions falling by the wayside, this is a great time to remember that every day is a good day to donate or volunteer. Right now is an especially good time to focus on how you can support some important causes just by drinking your chosen brews or discovering some new favorites throughout the remainder of the year.
News about a certain beer raising money for a particular organization pops up from time to time, but a little digging reveals that more breweries than one might assume are responsible for some real heavy lifting in the charity department. These breweries might already be known for their delicious offerings, but behind the scenes, they’re doing everything from raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for a cause to physically getting out there and helping the environment. Drinking their beers is supporting their work, and hopefully, they’ll inspire you to follow their charitable lead, too.
Since founder, fisherman, and nature-enthusiast Freddy Bensch set up shop for SweetWater Brewing Company in Atlanta, the brewery has had a second mission in addition to making beer: protecting the great outdoors. Last year marked the tenth anniversary of SweetWater’s Save Our Water campaign, which recently expanded to bring the brewery’s list of partners to five: the Waterkeeper Alliance, Trout Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited, Surfrider Foundation, and the Building Conservation Trust. Every year, SweetWater both donates $100,000 and promotes a matching campaign, resulting in over $1,000,000 raised so far.
“Supporting the conservation of some of the nation’s most threatened rivers, streams and coastlines through the annual Save Our Water campaign is a cause near and dear to the brewery, as clean water is also vital to the creation of [our] tasty brews,” said SweetWater spokesperson Tucker Berta Sarkisian.
The fish-friendly brewery also wrapped their first “Stack a Fish, Stock a Stream” campaign in late 2017. SweetWater covered cans of their 420 Extra Pale Ale and their IPA with trout artwork so that three stacked cans created a whole trout. They invited consumers to post pictures of their stacks tagged #fishforafish — for every one of those posts, SweetWater is stocking a native fish species into a local river or stream, working with local Departments of Natural Resources — even President Jimmy Carter stacked a fish. While that stack-and-hashtag fun is over for now, remember that every SweetWater brew you drink is helping contribute to their Save Our Water (which means your water) initiative.
Husband and wife Dave and Quynh Rathkamp started Save the World in Marble Falls, Texas in 2012, with two purposes: to make great beer, and to donate 100% of their profits to charity. That’s right, all the profits — it’s a tall order, but it’s one Dave and Quynh are happy to meet, as it combines their greatest loves.
“We were both physicians before opening the brewery, and Dave had been homebrewing for over 15 years,” Quynh explained. “Dave was attending a men’s bible study, and one day they discussed…how God can use our passion to help the world. He came home and said that he really loves to brew beer. My passion is for charity and volunteering. So, we decided to merge the two.”
Save the World also gives all of the tips earned in its tasting room to a different organization each month. The brewery recurrently partners with Food for the Hungry, Meals on Wheels, and Habitat for Humanity. Additionally, Quynh says Save the World reacts to the needs of areas affected by disaster, having helped the relief efforts for both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Maria. Quynh and Dave are happy that Save the World is able to do more than just give money, but also motivate others to help.
“Many people might come visit or try our beer because they are intrigued by the concept, but it’s the great beer and sense of community that [keep] them coming back. Our partners certainly benefit from our monetary donations, but they also get the opportunity to reach more people and recruit volunteers,” added Quynh.
Founded by brothers Chris and Phillip Ray in Ashland, Virginia, Center of the Universe Brewing Co. keeps charity at the forefront of its operations. Just in December, highlights included a Christmas market at the brewery that raised $1,000 for Girls for a Change, and fundraising $1,000 for the Ashland Theater Foundation.
“I’d say we support over 25 charities with significant contributions in any given year,” Chris said.
One of COTU’s long-running partnerships is with Soldiers’ Angels, an organization that provides aid to deployed men and women, wounded soldiers, and veterans. COTU brews the Homefront IPA, released around Memorial Day, with 100% of its proceeds going to Soldiers’ Angels. Brewed with West Coast hops and fresh orange zest, the beer is aged on Louisville Slugger Maple bats (a nod to Chris’s pro-ball past). COTU developed the IPA with Fremont Brewing Company in 2011 while Chris was playing for the Seattle Mariners. The brewery doesn’t account for time, labor, or potential revenue.
“This beer is for the troops, not cause marketing,” Chris explained.
The work that goes into making the Homefront IPA is work COTU is glad to do in order to give back. Being there for different causes is important to the brothers, as is showing appreciation to the people who put their lives on the line for Americans.
“I think it is everyone’s duty who is fortunate enough to have income that they can spare to help out individuals and organizations that offer support of people in need. Giving back is just a part of who we are and what we feel is an important aspect of being a good community business,” added Chris.
The plans for 14th Star Brewing Co. were born on the back of a battle notebook while its founders, Steve Gagner and Matt Kehaya, were deployed in Afghanistan. The brewery became a reality in St. Albans, Vermont in 2012. Almost immediately, Steve and Matt teamed up with their friend, Zachariah Fike, to align their beer with a cause that reflected their service and values.
Fike, a combat veteran and Major in the U.S. Army, is the founder of Purple Hearts Reunited. PHR locates lost or stolen medals of valor and returns them to the soldier or the soldier’s family. This reunites a soldier with the recognition of his or her sacrifice, or brings a family a sense of closeness to the soldier they may have lost, and that’s something 14th Star wanted to help make happen. For the past four years, they’ve brewed their hoppy amber ale, Valor, and given its proceeds to PHR. The Valor plan demonstrates 14th Star’s commitment to soldiers and veterans, as well as an overall belief in community.
“[14th Star is] only successful because of those around us that continue to support what we do; whether it’s consuming our beer, supporting our charitable efforts, or taking it upon themselves to better the community,” CEO Andrea Gagner said. “If people continue to support us and our growth, it’s our responsibility to do the same.”
People indeed support 14th Star’s beer, mission, and, specifically, the Valor Ale. A well-balanced beer that’s hoppy with a malty backbone, the Valor raises awareness in addition to funds for PHR.
“When people hear the story, they have to taste it,” Gagner said. “When they taste it, they love it. It is a beer that they enjoy the taste of and feel good about purchasing because of what it represents.”
Joel Gregory founded Ex Novo in Portland, Oregon in 2012, with the goals of providing Portlanders with great beer and supporting important causes in the local area and around the world. To that end, the brewery gives 100% of its profits to its partners, currently Friends of the Children, IJM, Impact NW, and MercyCorps. Gregory says it’s tough picking causes, but the brewery is devoted to working with social justice issues. Once Ex Novo meets its commitment of $100,000, it selects a new organization.
Gregory notes that the beer, itself, is one of the most important parts of the Ex Novo purpose, because that’s how people find and support the brewery’s mission. Once the team knows they’ve brewed a high-quality product, they can rest assured that their fans will help fuel their work.
“I’m really proud of my team for what we’ve built over the past three-and-a-half years,” Gregory said. “We’re regularly mentioned in lists of top five breweries in Portland, which to me is an accomplishment as there is such a wealth of great beer here. As long as we stay true to ourselves and the vision of what we set out to do, I think folks will support us!”
Even with Ex Novo focusing on its IPAs, Stouts, and Lagers, its social consciousness is woven into the core of its operations. Gregory explained:
“If I believe in helping others, even when it’s not convenient, or in standing up for the oppressed, or in leveraging any power I may have to bring good into the world — then my business should do the same thing.”
“Buy a beer, help a veteran.” That’s the tagline — and purpose — behind the Black Ale Project. Founded by veteran Dave Pappas, the Black Ale Project is an initiative partnering with breweries across the United States. Each brewery brews its own black ale to support veterans, raising money and/or awareness for different veteran-related causes. One of those breweries (and the first to get involved) is Medusa Brewing Company in Hudson, Massachusetts. Medusa’s black ale made its debut in 2016, producing $7,100 in net profits that were all donated to the New England Center and Home for Veterans. This year’s batch is named Hudson’s Heroes, and (with commemorative shirts the brewery made) raised $10,000 that is planned to go to the NECHV, The Imagine Project, and Pets for Vets.
“When Dave told us about the project and we began looking into veteran programs, we discovered this incredibly tight community of people,” said cofounder Keith Sullivan. “We immediately felt a connection to veterans in that sense, making the cause more important and closer to us. Having not served our country through public service or military experience, we felt this was one way we could do a little bit of our part as civilians.”
The Black Ale Project is still a young venture, but Sullivan says more than 30 breweries are taking part and have raised over $36,000 for different veteran-minded causes. Considering charity to be a vital element of their operations, the Medusa team is proud to be a part of that action.